Tokyo (AFP) April 25, 2010
Japan's premier ruled out a plan for a new US airbase on Okinawa island Saturday, on the eve of a mass rally against the planned facility, in a row that has soured ties with Washington for months.
The centre-left Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama last year launched a review of a 2006 pact to move an unpopular US base from a crowded city area of the southern island to a quieter coastal area, where locals also oppose it.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that Tokyo had agreed to broadly stick with the original plan, in an online report published a day before 100,000 people on Okinawa were expected to protest against the US military presence.
Hatoyama, whose approval ratings have dived into the 20-percent range amid the long-festering row, denied the report and said he rejected the plan to build the replacement US airbase in Okinawa's coastal area of Henoko.
"It must never happen that we accept the existing plan," Hatoyama told reporters in televised comments, effectively scrapping the agreement to move the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma there in coming years.
Building the new base -- with runways that would destroy a fragile marine habitat -- would be "blasphemy against the nature", Hatoyama said, according to the Jiji Press news agency.
The comments were the latest twist in an issue that started when Hatoyama's government took power in September, ending more than half a century of conservative rule and vowing "more equal" relations with Washington.
Hatoyama and his left-leaning allies pledged to ease the burden of the people of Okinawa, who have since World War II hosted a heavy US military presence and often complained of noise and frictions with American soldiers.
However, a search for an alternative site in Japan has yielded no viable options, as residents at the reported locations have also protested, while the Obama administration has insisted Tokyo honour the original agreement.
The premier, under questioning from a conservative lawmaker, on Friday staked his job on resolving the row by a self-declared end-of-May deadline.
Then the Washington Post reported Saturday that Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada had broadly accepted the 2006 pact in talks with US Ambassador John Roos at the US embassy in Tokyo on Friday, quoting unnamed sources.
The report also said President Barack Obama has bluntly told Hatoyama in a brief informal meeting in Washington this month that the two countries were "running out of time" and asked him whether he could be trusted.
The report that Tokyo had broadly agreed to implement the 2006 plan was also denied by Okada, who said on Saturday that "it's regrettable that such a report was published ahead of an important rally."
Up to 100,000 demonstrators, including Okinawa governor Hirokazu Nakaima and more than 30 town mayors, were expected at the event in Yomitan near Kadena Air Base, the largest US military facility in the Asia Pacific region.
On Saturday dozens protested against the US base plan in Tokyo.
"We are carrying out the protest here in Tokyo today to give momentum to Okinawa for tomorrow," Ryota Sono, an organiser, said as 70 demonstrators marched through the capital's entertainment district of Shinjuku.
"It's really time to stand up and tell the United States to pull all US bases from Okinawa," the 28-year-old said.
earlier related report
Hatoyama has already seen his personal approval ratings sink over the complex and highly emotive issue that has also strained relations with key ally Washington.
His government has promised to find a new location for the unpopular US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, now located on Okinawa island, but has struggled to find another place in Japan that wants to host the base.
"It is a matter of course for a prime minister ... to stake his job on every policy," the premier told parliament when asked whether he would step down if he fails on the issue.
"And it is fine with me if you assume that this of course includes the issue about a new location for Futenma."
The premier came to power in September after a landslide election win and launched a review of a 2006 pact that would have moved Futenma from a crowded urban area of Okinawa to a remote coastal part of the island.
Most people on Okinawa want the base moved off the island after complaining for decades about the burden of hosting more than 30 US military facilities, a legacy of Japan's World War II defeat to the United States.
Washington has repeatedly urged Tokyo to stick with the original 2006 deal, saying it is the best way to ease the burden for Okinawa while maintaining the defence of Japan and security in the Asia-Pacific region.
While the row has festered for months, during which the premier and his ministers have made sometimes contradictory comments on the issue, approval ratings for the Hatoyama cabinet have fallen into the 20 percent range.
The government's latest plan, reported in media but never officially confirmed, to transfer part of the base to Tokunoshima island, 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Okinawa, was met by a mass protests there last Sunday.
The rally drew more than half of the island's 27,000 people, and three town mayors on the island have refused to meet with Hatoyama's right-hand man, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano, to discuss the issue.
Washington also opposes relocating the military facility to Tokunoshima, US assistant secretary of state Kurt Campbell was quoted as saying in Friday's evening edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Another anti-base demonstration planned for Sunday on Okinawa is expected to draw up to 100,000 people including the governor and more than 30 mayors.
Share This Article With Planet Earth
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at SpaceWar.com
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at SpaceWar.com
Commentary: 'Be as one' in Singapore
Singapore (UPI) Apr 19, 2010
The rule book on unintended and unanticipated global disasters is yet to be written. In the past decade, the world has experienced several surprise disasters that dwarfed 9/11, in either casualties and/or cost - e.g., the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake that triggered a gigantic tsunami that killed more than 200,000 in 11 countries; the 2007 criminally inspired Wall Street subprime mortga ... read more
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|